If you asked me before accepting the call to my first pastorate, should a pastor make big changes his first year at a church? My reply would have been a resounding, NO. Since then I’ve flipped flopped on that question. My current answer is different. Yes, a pastor should introduce big changes his first year (if they are needed), but, a pastor should not attempt to make every big change his first year.
The key is recognizing:
- What big changes should and could occur the first year
- What big changes will take years of prep work and trust before introducing
- What pre-determined big changes might the pastor need to drop entirely, given the context of the congregation
Over the next few days, I’ll try to give some examples of big changes to make your first year, some changes that require prep work and trust that only time (or maybe a crisis successfully navigated) can provide, and some possible scenarios where a pre-determined change should be dropped.
A BIG CHANGE TO INTRODUCE YOUR FIRST YEAR: PREACHING
In my opinion, FWB are really-really good at affirming biblical and theological truths and really-really bad at preaching biblical passages. In every FWB church I have ever been in, and I’ve been in a lot, biblical truths were proclaimed. Sadly, in many places those truths were frequently not grounded in actual scripture and typically not connected in any way to the passage from which the preacher’s message supposedly flowed. This is not a (so-called) progressive or (so-called) conservative problem among FWB. This problem exists across the spectrum.
In my experience working for FWBBC, attending local, state, and national meetings, attending countless youth camps, youth meetings, and local churches, I concluded that lots of FWB pastors do not preach in a way that is (1) faithful to the text they preach from or that (2) helps the congregation learn to make sense of the stories and claims biblical authors present, while also revealing how stories and truth-claims are textually offered and argued within the Bible itself.
There are, thankfully, exceptions within my denomination. In fact, this year at our National meeting the Mon.-Wed. night sermons did the very thing I think we need a lot more of in your typical FWB church. I’m not referring to style of delivery, but to the approach of opening up biblical passages. (Dr. Pic did a different sort of thing, and I was not there for Sunday morning.)
A big change in preaching should occur immediately upon accepting a local church call to your typical FWB church. Considering FWB churches have preaching every Sunday, this will be an immediate and noticeable change. If you do introduce this change, I beg one thing of you…don’t be boring. God’s word is not boring. If you teach your people – by your preaching – that biblical passages are boring they will long for a preacher that says energetically all the right things about God’s word, while never actually bothering to immerse them every Sunday in the scriptures that give meaning to all our stories and theological propositions.
Should you make big changes your first year pastoring, Yes!! If you are FWB, preaching is probably the place to start.
PS – Thank the Lord for a number of FWB pastors who do immerse their people in the passages of scripture week after week, and do not just use passages as a launching point to discuss what “really matters.”